DECATUR — The statistics are reported daily across all kinds of media outlets: How many people tested positive for COVID-19. How many are hospitalized. How many died. For Father Joe Molloy, pastor at Holy Family Parish in Decatur, he became one of those statistics on Aug. 1 when he found out he was positive for COVID-19 or also called the coronavirus.
“Since I found out on a Saturday, I immediately thought of the church services I had that weekend, a wedding at noon that day, a baptism on Saturday evening and Sunday morning, plus the regular Masses,” Father Molloy said. “I was told to shut down the church immediately. What was I going to do about these celebrations? How would people know not to come? I had to deal with all of that initially and didn’t have time to think about the impact of the news on me personally.”
Fear then crept in, but it wasn’t about his health. Instead, Father Molloy said he was fearful of the impact on others due to him having the virus. Questions immediately popped into his mind. Would several people need to be tested because of him having the virus? How would people receive the sacraments? How could he just shut down all of his pastoral responsibilities immediately? Turning to our Catholic faith, Father Molloy said he prayed a lot.
“I prayed that it would all work out,” Father Molloy said. “My priestly ordination prayer card had a verse that I pray every day, and when the virus struck me, I prayed it many times a day: ‘Dear God, Your will, nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. Amen.’ It got me through some times of seclusion and anxiety. Parishioners at Holy Family were so loving and supportive throughout. They sent cards, prayers, goodies, and notes of support which all helped in allaying any fears I had.”
During his quarantine, physically, Father Molloy tired easily and had a headache that wouldn’t go away. His biggest symptom was the lack of any taste or smell. Mentally, it was also just as grueling. He says thinking about how others would react to him once he was out of quarantine took a toll. He also had a concern the virus wouldn’t go away. Spiritually, he says that he wondered why he got the virus in the first place, especially because he practiced safety measures regularly. He also asked God why he became positive when that meant not being able to ensure people would receive the sacraments.
“I was not afraid — more anxious — but not full of fear,” Father Molloy said. “I put it in God’s hands. Our Catholic faith sustained me. My dad, who was such a faithful man, told me time and again to ‘go with the flow.’ I asked his intercession from heaven to help me live that phrase. I was able to celebrate Mass each day in the rectory and that was a tremendous help to my soul and outlook. The rosary was a powerful tool also in focusing me on the Lord and the Blessed Virgin and not always on myself and my situation.”
Today, Father Molloy is feeling much better, but he still only has about 60 percent or so of his taste or smell back. His message for all of us is to not give up — and be not afraid.
“The Lord is right there journeying through the virus with you,” Father Molloy said. “Yes, you have to be cautious and careful, for yourself and out of respect and concern for others. But, I would say not to live in dread or totally isolate yourself. That can become just as bad or debilitating as COVID. Keep the faith, hope, and patience alive in your daily life. Stay in contact with your family and friends in whatever way is safe and possible. And pray, pray, pray.”